Report critical of Sheriff's Office
September 14, 2012 · Updated 4:17 PM
For the second time in less than two months, an outside audit of the practices and processes used by the King County Sheriff's Office to investigate deputy conduct are under scrutiny.
The audit was completed by the Police Assessment Resource Center of Los Angeles — a non-profit organization that "aims to strengthen police oversight so as to advance effective, respectful and publicly accountable policing."
The report was released to the King County Council’s Government Accountability Committee on Sept. 11 and focuses on deficient reporting and analysis by the Sheriff's Office after force is used by deputies and departmental reviews of officer-involved shootings.
Some of the findings noted in the report are:
• KCSO was "seriously deficient" in its record keeping of officer-involved shootings. Some files were missing important documents that had been lost, destroyed, or could not be found.
• PARC looked at 15 recent shooting reviews. None of the deputies who used a firearm were interviewed in person. Rather the deputy provided a written statement, and in no case was that sooner than 72 hours after the shooting.
• In 10 Shooting Review Board reports, the board released nearly identical explanatory memos
as to how they came to their conclusions. Basically, PARC could find no explanation of how the board arrived at its conclusions.
• Shooting Review packets from 2005 to 2011 were "not well maintained and crucial documents were missing from each packet," despite a requirement under Washington law to maintain the files for at least five years.
• Every Shooting Review Board during that time period showed a lack of dissension on the board, with unanimous votes to exonerate the deputy every time.
• Analysis of Shooting Review Boards showed the reviews were "pro forma and not calculated to achieve meaningful internal review." The report notes an absence of “serious deliberation and explicit reasoning” for the decisions made by the board.
• PARC wrote that the operations manual of the Sheriff's Office "does not offer appropriate guidance and support to deputies about the use of serious force or even deadly force." Nor does it "comport with the best polices of leading law enforcement agencies from across the country."
• An "after action" review of the deadly shooting of an unarmed man “displays a less than inquisitive response to the shooting…and in essence exonerated the officers without investigation."
• The Sheriff’s Office Use of Force Policy lacks many of the elements which have been considered "best practice" by the Department of Justice since 2001.
• Most Use of Force report packets reviewed by PARC lacked clear justification of why the conduct by the deputy was within policy and many packets were missing key documents.
In July, another audit was released by the firm Hillard Heintze of Chicago. Among other findings, the audit notes "significant issues with the King County Sheriff's Office policies and procedures [which] undermines organizational and individual accountability."
That audit concluded there is a "general lack of department-wide recognition of the important role played by the Internal Investigations Unit."